Tuesday, August 13, 2013

{Tutorial} How To Recover Dining Room Chairs

If you're considering wading in the waters of reupholstery, there might not be a better project to start on than recovering your dining room chairs.  They usually come apart easily and putting them back together is just as simple.  If you pay close attention to how the original upholstery was done as you take it apart, all you have to do is recreate that in reverse with your new fabric.

recover dining chairs

Today, I'm going to walk you through the process I followed on a set of eight vintage chairs I recovered recently for a client.  

Here's what I started with - the frames of the chairs were in excellent shape, but the fabric on the seats was dated.

reupholster dining chairs

The very first step is flipping the chairs upside down and locating where the seat is attached to the frame.  Once you find it - usually several screws or bolts - remove the seats and set the screws or bolts aside to reuse them when it's time to put the chairs back together.

reupholster dining chairs

The underside of the seat likely looks something like this.  That black cloth is called cambric or a dust cover.

reupholster dining chairs

Use a tack puller or small screwdriver and needle nose pliers to pull out the staples and remove the cambric.  Set aside the cambric to reuse later.

reupholster dining chairs

You should now see where the fabric is stapled to the seat frame.  These chairs had welting along the edges so first I pulled that off and then removed the seat fabric.  For the welting, I was able to loosen a corner and just give a good hard tug to remove it.  You'll want to remove the fabric from one of the chairs carefully so you can use it as a pattern for your new fabric.  After that, cut, rip, and pull to your heart's content!

reupholster dining chairs

Like I mentioned above, these chairs had welting, so I needed to sew some new welting out of the new fabric.  If your chairs don't have welting and/or you don't want to add it, skip this step.  If you do want to make it, you'll want to unroll your fabric and fold the bottom edge up to meet one side, making a triangle.

reupholster dining chairs

Cut several strips of the fabric, following that diagonal line while you're cutting.  Cutting diagonally (called "on the bias") is important because it gives the finished welting lots of bend to hug corners.

reupholster dining chairs

I first learned to sew welting by following steps 9-14 of this tutorial.  Another option if you like the look but don't want to sew it, is taking some fabric to a local tailor who will probably be willing to sew it for you for pretty cheap.

Now you should take the remaining fabric and use the intact old seat fabric you saved to guide your cutting of the new fabric.  Cut as many seats as you'll need for the the new chairs.  If there's a pattern to the fabric, think about how you want it oriented on the chairs (running vertically? horizontally?) and cut it accordingly.

Take your first new seat cover and lay the fabric upside down on the floor (1).  Center the actual seat on top of it, also upside down (2).  Pull the fabric up and over the bottom edge and use a staple gun to attach to the seat frame, leaving the corners and sides open for now.  If your fabric has a pattern, it's important to keep it going straight during this step (3).  Make sure to smooth the fabric as you go so there are no bunchy areas.  Do the same to the top of the seat (4).

reupholster dining chairs

Now prop the seat up in front of you to get ready to work on the front corners.

reupholster dining chairs

Pull the fabric (snugly - always snugly with upholstery!) down over the corner and hold in place.

reupholster dining chairs

Then fold the fabric on either side into a "V" and staple in place.  This takes some playing to get the fabric as smooth as possible, but you just keep tweaking it until it looks the way you want. 

reupholster dining chairs

This is just an option for pleating the corners - you can really fold and tuck it any way you like, but I chose this V pleat for these chairs.  Repeat for the other corner.
reupholster dining chairs

Now you work on the sides to staple the remaining loose fabric to the seat frame.  You'll need to fold and bunch the fabric underneath so it looks smooth from the top of the seat.

reupholster dining chairs

It's okay if there is some slight bunching visible when you hold the chair rightside up - it should be camouflaged when you reattach the seat to the chair frame.

reupholster dining chairs

Work all the way around the chair until all fabric is smooth and stapled in place.

reupholster dining chairs

If your chair doesn't have welting, you're finished with the seat upholstery!  If it does, or you want to add it, take the welting and shape it along the outer edges, stapling in place as you go along.

reupholster dining chairs

For these chairs, I did the welting in two pieces.  Once piece ran along the back part of the chair.

reupholster dining chairs

The other, longer piece ran along the sides and front of the chair.

reupholster dining chairs

Now take the cambric you saved and reattach on the underside of the seats.

reupholster dining chairs

Reattach the seat to the chair frame using the screws or bolts you set aside and you'll have a newly upholstered dining room chair!

reupholster dining chairs

reupholster dining chairs

Here's an easy-to-pin graphic if you want to set this tutorial aside for later.  Hover over the picture and a Pinterest graphic should appear for quick pinning.

recover dining chairs

For other upholstery tutorials, check out my Furniture Refinishing gallery HERE or Furniture Making gallery HERE.  

13 comments:

  1. Great tutorial! I'm pinning this as I will need it when I get to my dining room chairs! x

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  2. Great tutorial, Jen! So many people pay a small fortune to have this done when it's really just a simple DIY!
    I'm forwarding this along to my sister-in-law who just mentioned that she needs to have her kitchen chair seats re-upholstered. Thx!!

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  3. This is the most thorough tutorial I've seen, love it! The welting is such a great finishing element & it totally sets your chairs apart from the rest. #detailsdiva

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  4. You're a pro! Great tutorial, Jennifer. That new fabric totally transformed the chairs!

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  5. This is the only upholstery project I have tackled in our house. That other stuff intimidates me! That's why to two fireside chairs are not recovered. Gotta rip off that band-aid one of these days! xo Kristin

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  6. They look fantastic! I struggled with my little vanity chair. Figuring out how to fold the fabric on a circular seat was a nightmare. I'll end up redoing it when I have time because I cring every time I look at it!

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    1. Circular is the hardest! I think your best bet is figuring out a pleat pattern you like and playing that up instead of trying to go all smooth. It's tricky doing that shape though!

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  7. Great tutorial, I love the adding detail with the welting!

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  8. Thanks for the tutorial - I may be helping my sister out with reupholstering the seats of her dining chairs and this will come in handy!

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  9. I'm sending this to a friend who is doing this right now, great tutorial!

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  10. Awesome tutorial! Makes me want to get new kitchen chairs to upholster!

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  11. You rock at upholstery and tutorials...seriously!

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